Handling of planning application (other)
Ceredigion County Council
Mr X complained that Ceredigion County Council (“the Council”), acting as planning authority, had failed to take enforcement action regarding an unauthorised development on neighbouring land, which he reported in 2019. The Council had then (in 2020), granted retrospective planning consent which it later confirmed to be an error on its part (as it had intended to refuse the application). Since, Mr X said that the landowner had been allowed additional time by the Council to acquire further land to meet the terms of the permission granted, but had seemingly not done so within the time permitted. Mr X further complained that the Council had failed to keep him informed and had failed to explain to him why it had not taken further action against the developer for failing to acquire the land or what it proposed to do.
In considering the complaint, the Ombudsman acknowledged the error that the Council accepted had happened. He was concerned about the delay that had since occurred as well as the lack of update information provided to Mr X. He considered this to amount to maladministration and to be a serious injustice to Mr X, given he had first raised concerns in 2019. Recognising his jurisdictional limitations in planning matters (in that he cannot question professional judgement, or direct the Council to take enforcement action), the Ombudsman considered the complaint capable of being resolved on the basis of the following action, as an alternative to investigation. The Council agreed, within 1 month to:
(a) Apologise in writing to Mr X (through a Senior Officer) for the maladministration that had occurred.
(b) Provide Mr X (separately or combined within the above) with a detailed explanation as to what had happened since the Council’s decision to allow time for land acquisition, and how the issue is to be determined and brought to a conclusion.
(c) Offer Mr X redress in the total sum of £1,500 for the injustice caused to him by the maladministration, as well as his time and trouble in pursuing his complaints with both the Council and the Ombudsman.